Why Is Tan Skin Attractive? Plus 5 Tanning Myths

Many people, mostly in Western countries, are obsessed with tanning. That’s why it’s no surprise that the indoor tanning industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion per year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. So, why is tan skin attractive?

In Western countries, tan skin is attractive to many as it relates to higher social status — one who is wealthy enough to travel somewhere warm. In Eastern countries, tan skin is less attractive as it relates to many as a lower social status — one who works in the fields all day.

Tanned can also be attractive to some when it makes the skin more even-toned and hides imperfections. Some people have visible imperfections when not tanned, but when tanned, the imperfections are less visible and the skin looks more even-toned.

Read on to learn more about why tan skin is attractive, also I’ll discuss 5 tanning myths.

Also, take a look at a great alternative to tanning beds, or tanning in the sun: the Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Why Is Tan Skin Attractive?—The Culture of Tanning

It was Coco Chanel, the popular French fashion designer, who popularized the idea of tanning in the 1920s. That’s when the sun started to become the symbol of health, pleasure, and relaxation. In the early 1980s, “fake tan” (meaning, the use of tanning beds or sprays) became increasingly popular.

Tanned skin is a form of social status, which can be both a good and bad thing. For instance, a lot of Chinese people avoid getting a tan because they associate it with being a poor laborer, while fair skin is a symbol of nobility and wealth.

Other parts of the world, like Brazil, Ghana, Malaysia, and Rwanda, also have this kind of thinking.

It’s a different story with most European and Western countries. Most Europeans and Westerners prefer tan skin.

You can view it this way: Many parts of the United States and many other Western countries receive less sunlight for more than half of the year. Having a tan or a darker skin tone means you’re financially well-off, thus you can afford to travel around the world, especially in tropical countries.

Here’s an interesting study that somehow confirms the notion that most people find tan skin attractive. This 2010 study by Vinh Q. Chung et al. was published in the peer-reviewed journal Dermatologic Surgery. [1] They gathered and tested 45 photos of women aged 21 to 35, and then used Adobe Photoshop to manipulate the photos, so their skin looked tan.

They uploaded the original and edited photos on the website ‘Hot or Not.’ This site allows people to rate the attractiveness of the submitted photos from 1 to 10.

What did the researchers find out? The result confirmed their premise: that people find artificial tanning attractive. In fact, “tanned” photos have twice the chances of getting rated as attractive than the “untanned” photos (the original photos).

To sum it up, the idea that tan skin is attractive or unattractive will highly depend on the prevailing standards of the dominant society. In most cases, this is tightly linked with social status.

I hope this was clear to you. Now, let’s proceed to a more important issue regarding tanning: your skin health.

Is Tan Skin Healthy?

why is tan skin popular

We need a healthy dose of sunlight everyday for physical and mental wellbeing. Sunlight exposure promotes better sleep, helps with depression (by increasing the brain hormone serotonin), and generates vitamin D, which causes health problems if deficient, such as anemia, brittle bones, and cancer.

Studies and experts recommend getting 3 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure at noon [2] – making sure that you expose your arms, back, chest, and legs for vitamin D. If you have sensitive skin or darker skin, you may need to spend more or less time than that.

But, as you would know, spending too much time under the sun comes with its own dangers.

Melanoma, a severe type of skin cancer, is the 19th most frequent cancer occurring in the world. Australia and New Zealand have the highest cases in both men and women in 2018. In the United States, over two people die of skin cancer every hour. [3]

Spending time under the sun is needed for good health, but only at certain times of the day and for a short period.

A great alternative to tanning beds, or tanning in the sun, is the Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic – for fair to medium skin tones:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

or, see the Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Plus – for medium to dark skin tones.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

These self-tanning towelettes are easy to apply and dry in seconds. They exfoliate, moisturize, and tan your skin easily, without risk of over-exposure to the sun.

5 Common Tanning Myths

is tan skin attractive

Despite the repeated warnings from experts, people can’t be stopped from getting their dream bronze skin tone. There are many myths that lead people to get a tan. Below, I’ll explain 5 of the most common tanning myths:

1. A Tan Protects Your Skin from the Sun

In an interview for the University of Utah, Dr. Doug Grossman from Huntsman Cancer Institute said a tan is a natural response of the skin to protect itself from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

This then prompts your skin cells to produce more pigment, which ultimately makes your skin more resistant to future sun burning. [5]

Here’s the problem: You get a tan after the damage has been done.

A tan or sunburn is actually a sign of damage to the DNA (the genetic material) in your skin cells. If you don’t stop tanning or protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation, the effects build up over time and could cause skin cancer.

What’s more, UV-A rays, which can penetrate deep into your skin, destroy collagen. This leads to premature skin aging.

The point is, tanning offers little to zero protection. It isn’t unhealthy because you’re going to burn your skin. It’s unhealthy because you’re going to do some serious damage to your skin’s genetic material, which increases your risk for skin cancer.

2. A Base Tan Prevents Sunburn

If you’re into tanning, you might have heard about the idea of a base tan. If you haven’t, a base tan allows you to prevent sunburn by slowly building up a tan.

So, do you need it to avoid getting a sunburn?

Sunbathing with a base tan is almost the same as wearing a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 3 to 4. [7] Meaning, you can expose your skin up to four times more sun before it starts to burn.

Let’s say you would normally get a sunburn after 15 minutes of staying under the sun. If you have a base tan, you could sunbathe for a maximum of 60 minutes before your skin starts to burn.

Is it really worth it?

A base tan is not worth the time and expense. You’re better off wearing a sunscreen, which offers higher SPFs.

3. Darker Skinned People Don’t Have to Worry About Sun Exposure

No one is exempt. Just because your skin is naturally brown or tan doesn’t mean you’re immune to the risks involved with tanning.

Melanoma and non-melanoma (the name for all types of cancer that form in the skin that are not melanoma) could still affect those who have naturally darker skin.

Although compared to people with fair skin, dark-skinned people have a lower risk of developing this life-threatening condition.

According to the World Health Organization, the following factors increase the risk of certain people for skin cancer:

  • Freckled skin
  • Light skin and hair color
  • A history of serious sunburns
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Blue, hazel, or green eyes
  • Having lots of moles

4. Tanning Beds Are Safer Than the Sun

Sunbed, sun lamp, tanning booth—whatever you call it, a tanning bed is not considered safer than sunbathing by most medical experts.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, one session in an indoor tanning bed could increase by 67% your risk of getting skin cancer. [6]

Skin cancer isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when using a tanning bed. By using this indoor tanning device, you’re also putting yourself at risk for eye melanoma, also called ocular melanoma.

Instead of tanning beds, use a sunless tanning solution like the Sun Laboratories Sunless Spray Tan Machine or the sunless tan towels I mentioned earlier.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

5. Sun Damage from Tanning Is Reversible

Your skin always remembers damage inflicted on it from the past. This idea basically means that, if for instance, you incurred sun damage in your childhood, you’re going to feel its effects throughout your adult life.

In fact, it could double your chances of getting skin cancer later in your life. According to a medical article published by Harvard, the side effects of sun damage could start to show up in your ’20s. [8]

The good news is it’s possible to reverse sun damage caused by tanning or other means. However, home treatments might not be as effective as prescription treatments or in-clinic procedures.

The below video explains well why tan skin is attractive, as well as the history of how tan skin became attractive:

Conclusion – Why Is Tan Skin Attractive?

So, why is tan skin attractive? In Western society, many people think a tan is a sign of good health and wealth.

Aside from tanning beds and sunbathing, eat foods with high amounts of beta-carotene or other carotenoids as that can help give your skin a nicer glow – and you don’t have to worry about skin damage from the sun or tanning bed.

Remember the common tanning myths:

  1. A Tan Protects Your Skin from the Sun
  2. A Base Tan Prevents Sunburn
  3. Darker Skinned People Don’t Have to Worry About Sun Exposure
  4. Tanning Beds Are Safer than the Sun
  5. Sun Damage from Tanning is Reversible

Attraction is skin deep! Your personality matters a lot. So don’t go to great lengths worrying so much about your outer appearance and instead, have a great personality. For outer appearance, exercise, get great sleep, eat well, and skip getting a tan.